An evangelical Christian group’s plan to distribute a controversial video game to U.S. troops in Iraq has been scrapped after protests.
A Dallas-based group called Operation Straight Up (OSU) planned to include copies of “Left Behind: Eternal Forces” in care packages for the troops. The game, based on a series of apocalyptic novels by Religious Right activist Tim LaHaye, allows players to kill opponents in the name of Christianity or the Antichrist. It has been criticized for violent content.
A description of the game on the blog www.talk2action.com reads, “The game rewards children for how effectively they role play the killing of those who resist becoming a born again Christian. The game also offers players the opportunity to switch sides and fight for the army of the AntiChrist, releasing cloven-hoofed demons who feast on conservative Christians and their panicked proselytes….”
It continues, “Is this paramilitary mission simulator for children anything other than prejudice and bigotry using religion as an organizing tool to get people in a violent frame of mind? The dialogue includes people saying, ‘Praise the Lord,’ as they blow infidels away.”
Operation Straight Up planned to send the game along with a pocket-sized New Testament and an evangelistic book called More than a Carpenter in English but also translated into Arabic, reported the Religion News Service. On its Web site, OSU urged donors to “Support our sons and daughters in the military by introducing them to the eternal salvation that can only come from God.”
The group has sent actors and entertainers to U.S. military bases to perform for troops and suggested doing the same in Iraq. Operation Straight Up refers to these events as “boot camps for the soul,” and performers include testimonials about their fundamentalist faith.
Despite its evangelical focus, OSU is listed as an official member of a Department of Defense initiative titled “America Supports You.” Under the initiative, groups in the United States work to support troops overseas in part by sending them letters and care packages and assisting their families stateside.
After the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), a group that works to support church-state separation in the military, exposed the ties between Operation Straight Up and the Department of Defense, the Pentagon scrapped the distribution of the entire care packages.
Mikey Weinstein, an AU member who founded the MRFF, told Navy Times, “OSU is a giant IED [improvised explosive device] that is blowing up the constitutional wall separating church and state…. These groups are preying on non-evangelical Christians. They believe they have the only right faith, that everybody else is false.”
Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United, added, “There appears to be a very deep connection between this allegedly private group promoting evangelical Christianity and the military itself. It doesn’t matter what the religion is. The government is supposed to be neutral. It is supposed to be hands-off on that.”